Clubfitting 101: Unrecognized Starting Essentials
Last post I discussed how golf swing performance and desired golf ball travel are all too often not coupled to each other. In addition to the multitude of times I have personally experienced this phenomenon in the past, I went through this again extensively just this year. I began the year putting the lightest, smallest women’s grips on my clubs with the intent of playing about ten rounds at various swingweights, noting the results, and then putting the largest, heaviest grips on I could find and repeating the exercise. (Swinging at the golf range or in the yard from the identical lie and conditions time after time can sometimes mask subtle things that could use further improvement, so playing actual rounds with different specifications has at times been very helpful to me, even though much more time consuming). Unfortunately, I began battling a knee problem at the start of the year that was bothersome enough for me to decide to forego the degree of fine-tuning I expected of myself. So I ended up just leaving the ladies’ grips on all year, yet I still played a good many rounds while working to rehabilitate my injury. I set and left my clubs around a swingweight value close to where I knew (from prior experience) they would end up at had I completed the particular test as planned. Through most of the year, even with these smaller grips on, I swung about as well as I ever have, with no desire whatsoever to change a thing in that regard. Yet I did not hit the ball particularly well from either contact or directional standpoints, having grips on that were at least two or three sizes too small for me and harder to control. Disparately, on many other occasions, I have experienced totally opposite effects. When playing with clubs that overall are set closer to what I know is better for me, but with perhaps one specification off just enough, or even theoretically correct but altering the consistency of certain parameters from club to club, I can generally hit the ball more solidly, longer, and straighter than I did with the women’s grips I had on this year. Nevertheless, I routinely swing worse with such closer-to-correct clubs and I can be so inconsistent from swing to swing that I indeed feel like a beginner all over again. Remember this well as I continue.
The combination of how we are able to and do swing our golf clubs with the bodies and minds we are given, plus the way golf balls are subsequently hit and travel, are the two preeminent factors that golfers, clubfitters, engineers, and others hopefully work together on in order to produce the best golf clubs possible. This quest shall continue long after we are all gone. Golf clubs must be made and fit in accordance with the number, shapes, and positions of our limbs, plus the directions, timings, and strengths of the way those limbs move within the process of swinging golf clubs. And what we mentally perceive throughout is equally, if not more important, toward the design and fitting of those clubs. If not accomplished, I could never have the chance to apply myself, both physically and emotionally, to the maximum of my existence, and that would be discouraging for sure. But swing performance is not the only factor of playing well, since as stated I can make beautifully formed and consistent swings with both body and mind, yet still not achieve results that agree with the performance level of that swinging. Therefore, in addition to making/fitting golf clubs directly to the “main source” of what generally determines how well golfers play (their swings), steps must also be implemented to help those swings hit golf balls as far, straight, solid, and consistently as possible, or otherwise allow players to maneuver golf balls based on the way swings are consciously performed.
Most people do not seem aware that almost all existing golf club specifications can be fit directly to one’s golf swing in order to get the most out of his or her swing characteristics, without regard to golf ball travel results (which can absolutely cloud the issue of how well one is really swinging). These include grip size/weight, swingweight/total weight, multiple shaft parameters, and even face angle if you can believe that, which you will believe and understand in due time. Over time, most golf club parameters have evolved toward certain accepted values (though they continue to evolve) along with certain plus and minus tolerances associated with those values. As examples, successive lorythmic swingweight values differ by one-eighth of an ounce of force on a golf club’s grip end, successive grip sizes vary in diameter by approximately one sixty-fourth of an inch (and about one-tenth of an ounce of weight), and certain shaft models vary by only about the weight of a U.S. dime. These parameters certainly did not evolve because they were (or are) easy enough for the manufacturers of such products to achieve, nor did most evolve because of ball flight variations. Most all golf shots invariably have some difference in curvature to them, and the particular attribute(s) responsible for causing what amount(s) of that dispersion on any given stroke may be virtually impossible to precisely determine. So how could one possibly decide the “degree” of cutoff between successive specification values based on ball travel? But as a long-time player, I can attest first hand that, based on a golf swing and a golf swing alone, the above-noted differences are in fact amounts that can be readily distinguished by golfers during their swings and can noticeably affect those swings. Direct swinging performance, having nothing whatsoever to do with golf ball travel, are how and why most golf club specification values and their tolerances have developed into what they currently are. If figuring swinging well supports playing well, then these specifications should wisely be applied directly to swinging, if knowing how. Next up, some not-so-direct clubfitting schemes.